back to article HP CEO: Printed pages are down 20% since pandemic

Fewer and fewer pages are being printed at home and in the office, posing something of a challenge for HP and its rivals. Talking at Bernstein's 40th Annual Strategic Decision Conference late last week, HP boss Enrique Lores acknowledged the pressures facing the print division, saying the number of printed pages has dropped by …

  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    No surprise there then

    HP will do what HP does in these cases, paint itself into a corner.

    They'll EOL supplies for more printers and make those very printers refuse to take 3rd party inks etc by applying software updates in the background and without the customer being able to say NO.

    They've already tried this but IMHO, that was just dabbling their corporate and very putrid toes in the water.

    The replacements will be so locked down that 3rd party companies even thinking of making inks/toners etc will be hit by mega, mega sized lawsuits.

    That in turn will make customers think long and hard about buying anything from any company flogging HP branded kit.

    Revenue will be down and we will see more of the same in a rinse and repeat operation.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    WTF?

    "450 billion fewer pages"

    So, basically you're telling me that we used to print over two trillion pages a year ?

    Holy fucking shit. How many trees do we kill for that ?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "450 billion fewer pages"

      As trees for paper are just a crop with a rather longer life cycle than wheat or the like the appropriate quesion is "How many trees did we grow?"

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge

        > trees for paper are just a crop with a rather longer life cycle than wheat or the like

        Well, it depends..

        Not all paper is from "sustainable forests" etc. Much like Drax wood pellets.

        Then there's the bleach to make it white. What do they do with all the polluted water..

    2. Like a badger

      Re: "450 billion fewer pages"

      "How many trees do we kill for that ?"

      200 million, using 10k pages per typical pine tree:

      https://ribble-pack.co.uk/blog/much-paper-comes-one-tree

      But bear in mind that 200m is a gross equivalent value before the effect of recycling which varies by region. Also worth noting that most of the wood for office paper comes from fast growing, farmed trees that don't use fertiliser or anything other than rain water, often are only suitable for uses like paper making, and grown in locations that have no more valuable use.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "450 billion fewer pages"

        While your figures are interesting I'm not completely convinced by the 20% drop HP talk about. I noticed in lockdown that we actually printed more... but at home. School stuff for the kids, more often there were forms on web sites I had to print, fill in and return. A quick check with friends and colleagues reveals similar findings and we as a business (at least where I work) didn't print much less. I wonder if some of that drop was due to people using up supplies as it was harder to get deliveries for a while....

        Personally I remember a big drop in printing in the early to mid 90s (emails replacing circulars etc.) and from then on it's been more gradual as forms moved online and more recently with electronic signatures and submission of forms......

        1. Shalghar Bronze badge

          Re: "450 billion fewer pages"

          Quite so. I assume HP has those numbers - if not made up - only for printers they can control.

          So this would mean 20% less printed on HP controlled hardware, with no information about the real printing capacity.

          None of the printers i own personally or keep working for friends and family has any online connection and all of those are using generic drivers, so no communication to any manufacturer here.

          We switched several printers in the company from HP to brother, mainly due to cost of ink/toner but also due to issues with the multitude of operating systems and the quite uncooperative behaviour of HP printer drivers/software. The remaining HP printers might see their regular end of projected lifecycle while Canon printers are currently in the target lock for getting a bit too much like HP.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: "450 billion fewer pages"

            uncooperative behaviour of HP printer drivers/software.

            I've told this story before - and take great delight in repeating it

            We had an HP inkjet some years ago. It did an update which fell over on writing the new driver files after deleting the existing Windows drivers.It had failed to remove a dll from the existing installation- then couldn't install the new drivers because that .dll was still in place. It didn't offer to ignore that file, or skip it or overwrite it. It just saw it and stopped dead, aborting the install completely.at that point. It wouldn't let me manually delete the .dll either - because permissions The HP supplied software to fix such a failure was in several "levels" ( or some such jargon) that had to be used in turn and it took an age for each of them to run and then do a reboot. Which I spent several days running but none of these would remove that .dll. The actual driver software, by the way, looked Byzantine in its complexity! So many files!

            It rendered the printer unusable* so we had to just scrap it- we didn't buy another HP printer, or indeed anything else, after that and never will

            And when I looked at the installation the dll that wouldn't install over the existing unremovable one it was the same version. .

            *These days I have gathered more skills- so I would have tried other things like changing file permissions, editing the registry etc. But no one should have to do that for a simple printer driver update

            1. James O'Shea

              Re: "450 billion fewer pages"

              I had an HP inkjet MFD at home for printing from and scanning to my Windows and Mac systems. And then came Vista and Mac OS X Leopard, and the device stopped working. I went on HP's site and looked for new drivers. Nope. I called HP. That device is not supported anymore. You have to buy a new device. I did. A Brother. Strangely enough, I've bought Brothers ever since. The Brother laser printer which replaced that HP has finally died. It has been replaced by a Brother laser MFD. For color, I have an Epson color inkjet MFD, which is showing signs of age. I will be replacing it with a Brother color laser MFD. (Note that the old HP device worked just fine with XP, and when I got 3rd-party drivers, with Vista/Win 7 and with OS X all the way to Mountain Lion, when the device finally croaked. HP didn't support it, but Gutenprint and others like them did.)

              At the office, we used HP lasers, grayscale and color, for years. Decades. Then the old units died. New HPs were crap. They are being replaced, mostly with Brothers.

              HP has destroyed its reputation. They will not being getting any sales from any entity that I control. And this was BEFORE they started with the subscription crap.

    3. Marty McFly Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "450 billion fewer pages"

      I live in timber country. Come and get them! Modern hybrid seeds will have another crop read-to-go in 40 years - these are not old-growth trees that take hundreds of years to mature.

      If you don't take them away, they just build up fuel in the forest and that is how we get extremely catastrophic wildfires.

    4. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: "450 billion fewer pages"

      But think of all the basements full of useless prints that nobody will ever read, but which must be archived because of moronic policies. I bet that some of that carbon remains bound in paper a lot longer than it was bound in a tree to begin with.

  3. Andy Non Silver badge
    Joke

    "sales have been declining, also the life of printers is being extended"

    What HP need to do is put a hardware expiry date into the printer's firmware. "Sorry, cannot print, for best results you need to buy a new HP printer."

    1. Like a badger

      Re: "sales have been declining, also the life of printers is being extended"

      What HP need to do is put a hardware expiry date into the printer's firmware. "Sorry, cannot print, for best results you need to buy a new HP printer."

      Sadly you aren't joking. Canon and possibly others already do this with some, possibly most of their inkjet printers. Inkjets produce surprisingly large amounts of waste ink, and what the printer does is simply shat into the base of the printer onto a big sponge pad. Most consumers are blissfully unaware of this "dump in yer keks" behaviour, and the manual and manufacturer web sites say nothing about it. The printer has a waste ink counter that counts head cleaning cycles, ink flushes and pages printed, and when it think the pad is at capacity it simply rings up a service attention needed 5B00 error and stops printing. For most consumers that means a decision on whether to ship to Canon and back for a medium-bucks service, or to throw it away. On a four+ year printer, what do you think most people will choose?

      For those handy with a screwdriver, they need to source the custom fit waste ink pads, take the back off the printer then replace the ink pads (a very messy task, and not one most people's aunt will be comfortable performing). Or rather than replacing the ink pads you can plumb in a Printer Potty, but in that case you're also taking a drill to the back of the printer - works a treat, but for most people they'll just throw the printer out. And once you've replaced the pads or fitted a potty, you then need to use the reset procedure that can be found online but that Canon won't tell you.

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: "sales have been declining, also the life of printers is being extended"

        Ouch! Didn't know that.

        Anything to do with printer ink is a horrible messy task. Back in the day I bought a contraption for the computer dept to re-ink the large ink ribbon spools used in the massive DEC line printers to save a few quid. Quickly the IT staff refused to use it and I got stuck with the job myself. We soon went back to buying new ribbons.

    2. Shalghar Bronze badge

      Re: "sales have been declining, also the life of printers is being extended"

      Canon did that in the early 2000s, i believe. There was a bubblejet (b320?) that someday came up with a message that the container for excess ink was filled and needed replacement.

      Too bad that such a container doesnt exist in that printer model. Some clever guy figured out the sequence of button holds, press/releases you needed to do with the three buttons on top after power up and then the error would magically disappear. Projected repair cost was around 280 credits (plus p&p) while a new printer of the same type would be around 250-260.

      This printer vanished quite quickly from the market and up to today, i never heard again from such malpractice from Canon.

      Nowadays, the 5400 series just behaves like any other Ink-a-holic and refuses to scan if not every printer cartridge is considered non empty.

      Same with Epson, by the way.

      1. Like a badger

        Re: "sales have been declining, also the life of printers is being extended"

        Well, I've seen and worked around the 5B00 stop error on my Canon G4511, hence my awareness of it. From internet reports that error appears to apply to all Canon Megatank printers such as the G4xxx series, G6xxx and G7xxx, MG5xxx, TS6xxx plus others. On those with refillable ink tanks there's no way the printer can stop you using third party, but as bulk Canon ink isn't that costly and has a reputation for accuracy and durability I prefer to use OEM rather than chance the quality of third party. But if you were using a TS6xxx or other cartridge model, and had lined Canon's pocket with gold for several years, you might feel especially aggrieved when it grinds to a halt.

        One or two of the latest Megatanks have user replaceable ink pads so that presumably (?!) means there's an easy way of resetting the ink counter, but they're relatively new and don't represent any but a tiny fraction of the in-use fleet. If you do see a 5B00 error, you can of course just follow the relevant counter reset on your printer and keep printing without replacing the filters or putting on a potty. That'll work in the short term but the eventual consequence will be in a few months or a year or two's time that the printer is leaking waste ink out of the casing.

        I reset the ink counter first to check that worked, removed and thoroughly cleaned the print heads, then removed the saturated pads, then fitted a Printer Potty, and my G4511 now prints like new. A few years down the line it will need the counter resetting - no problem, I now know what to do, and the potty needs emptying every few months. Who knew that a relatively pricey inkjet needs mid life service and sump-drain?

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: "sales have been declining, also the life of printers is being extended"

      With the Officejet 8500/8600, HP achieved similar with a key nylon bush deep in the paper feed mechanism that was prone to brittle fracture after a few years, the failure of which HP could attribute to “using the wrong type of paper”…

  4. s. pam Silver badge
    FAIL

    Serves them right, after all they're vampires

    HP deserveth what HP wrought -- £/$/ €milk punters, don't let them use 3rd party product, whack them repeatedly and customers walk.

    Funny NO other printer companies are complaining!

  5. The Insuranator

    Old HP

    In 2000 years time, when humanity has departed the planet for a new home, my HP LaserJet 2100TN will still be going.

    1. BebopWeBop

      Re: Old HP

      My LaserJet 5 will be as well. Once leaving HP, I never bought another printer from them - and that is despite having my name on some patents for the earlier machines. It was a good decision.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Old HP

        Greetings, fellow LJ5 owner!

        Love that printer, I resurrected it for a couple hundred dollars in parts (mainly a replacemnt fuser) and it's been going strong since COVID started.

        1. CountCadaver Silver badge

          Re: Old HP

          I paid that for a brand new colour brother laser with a duplexer....

    2. Bebu Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Old HP

      "In 2000 years time, when humanity has departed the planet" but I doubt "for a new home" unless it's called oblivion.

    3. herman Silver badge

      Re: Old HP

      Wow, 2000 years - are you printing out your porn collection?

      1. Roj Blake Silver badge

        Re: Old HP

        Those hedges won't replenish their stock themselves.

  6. alain williams Silver badge

    I gather that the HP legal team is no longer busy ...

    so surely they can bring the brilliant minds that dealt with Mike Lynch to the task of tying printer customers in knots to keep printer income rising.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: I gather that the HP legal team is no longer busy ...

      They could sue the customers for not buying more ink/toner. Just be on the guard for them slipping in some such clause in the small[micro] print.

      As for customers - after 20+ years of service from a HP 6MP, replaced it with a Brother Colour laser - very reasonable pricing for both the machine and toner

  7. perkele

    HP customers might not be sweating but have purchased non-Hp b/c of their shit behaviour & attitudes, . & HP waits for an order that doesn't come...

  8. Terry 6 Silver badge

    One more reason

    There is something fairly cynical about those HP comments, with its acknowledgement that they need to increase obsolescence, that makes me even more determined ( as I've already expressed so many times on here) never to trust HP for anything I want to buy.

  9. Munehaus

    On the Office Space?

    Did they really say "on the office space" out loud? I guess they've seen how most of their former customers regard their garbage products.

  10. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Hybrid Work responsible?

    A long bow being drawn here I think.

    Most hybrid workplaces have a 2-3 days in the office (40-60%) but I imagine most of the pages that were printed pre COVID/WFH by now hybrid workers were annotated and taken into meetings. I imagine the number of these meetings hasn't changed much - just squeezed into the 2 or 3 days.

    Possibly some of the meetings are video-conf. and the participants now have the documents that they would have printed now displayed on their large monitor(s.)

    Perhaps meeting participants have, since 2018, acquired large tablets or A4 e-paper devices which now serve the same purpose as paper.

    Larger and higher resolution displays also may reduce printing - I find I print less (problematic) code now with a monitor that can concurrently display a number of A4 pages. Hard to believe it wasn't too long ago that 80x25 was it. ;)

    Most likely it's just the world justifiably telling HP go play with itself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hybrid Work responsible?

      There's another influence, and that's the heavy printing individuals (such as me) rely on a big, fast office printer to hammer out several hundred pages in a couple of minutes. At home most of us don't have the space or budget to buy something equivalent, even on the company tab. So whilst I find it more effective to work on print copies, I'll only ever print them if I'm in the office. When WFH I find other ways of working that to me are less ideal, but result in much less printing.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Hybrid Work responsible?

      I use an iPad with an Apple Pencil to annotate pdf documents.

      1. Like a badger

        Re: Hybrid Work responsible?

        I, on the other hand, spread my single side printed document across my desk (and of those unlucky to be around me), and then scribble on the pages, move them around, scrunch them up and generally abuse them. When they're too nixed up to be useful the go in the secure shredding and recycling bin, and a fresh copy is printed. When I've finished and the designers have been at the leftovers, the result is a beautiful "designed for screen viewing" document that is intended to ensure that the vast majority of readers don't need to print their copy.

  11. Johnb89

    Perhaps if printers WOULD ACTUALLY PRINT

    Perhaps I'd print more if my printer would actually print.

    - You can't print black&white because you don't have Magenta ink that you have.

    - Your debit card has expired so you can't print with the ink and paper that is already in your printer.

    - The cartridge you are using that worked perfectly well yesterday is now illegal and the police have been called.

    - The wifi connection that worked perfectly well for the last 13 years is the wrong polarity/style/font. Have you tried restarting your computer?

    - Are you in a rush? Bad attitude detected, please wait.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps if printers WOULD ACTUALLY PRINT

      "You can't print black&white because you don't have Magenta ink that you have."

      I'm pretty sure if you print black & white it uses up some colour ink just checking if you have any. =(

      1. Shalghar Bronze badge

        Re: Perhaps if printers WOULD ACTUALLY PRINT

        The usual questionable excuse for InkStain printers is keeping the ink channels filled with moist ink / prevent dryout blockage.

        This, however, does not explain why some LASER printers also show such error/complaint messages for B/W prints.

        1. Bartholomew
          Big Brother

          Re: Perhaps if printers WOULD ACTUALLY PRINT

          Every black and white page printed needed access to all pigments to add the serial number secretly to every page! (ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_Identification_Code ).

          When someone is doing something illegal at a massive scale, a page is eventually printed somewhere. And governments want the ability to track seized documents back to the source device(s). It might help understand the structure of an organisation.

          1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

            Re: Perhaps if printers WOULD ACTUALLY PRINT

            For every high tech tracking mechanism, there is a simple low tech solution - steal a printer. Print your phony money, then the plod goes to someone else's house after they decode the dots. I mean, you're already a criminal, what's one more crime in the grand scheme of things?

            1. Bartholomew

              Re: Perhaps if printers WOULD ACTUALLY PRINT

              Yea but ...

              “Knowing where the trap is that's the first step in evading it.” - Frank Herbert, Dune

              How many people know that pretty much every single printer prints the date, time along with the serial number multiple times (for redundancy, in case only a scrap of a page is recovered) on every single page produced. I am sure that there are people reading this that never knew, the ones complaining why a printer needs colour pigments when printing black and white.

              And even if someone steals a printer, that does change the traceability of the paper trail. The plod have a series of high end printers stolen from Manchester, colour thermal wax and fusers stolen from Bedfordshire, and fake fivers (Lady Godivas) showing up in east London. It does not matter that it was stolen, they can track all the fake notes back to one or more printers and track those printer(s) back to a theft. They have a ground zero, an origin to start their investigation, which they would not have otherwise.

              I'm not saying that full traceability is good, but it exists.

              It use to be that cash was king, totally untraceable, these days every serial number is recorded every time it leaves a cash machine, or enters the banking system. It is amazing how much tracking goes on in the background, and it is not just cookies from websites.

      2. Bartholomew
        Big Brother

        Re: Perhaps if printers WOULD ACTUALLY PRINT

        > if you print black & white it uses up some colour ink

        Yes, yes they do, usually yellow, for the "Tracking Dots" AKA "forensic tracking codes" (ref: https://www.eff.org/pages/list-printers-which-do-or-do-not-display-tracking-dots )

  12. Tron Silver badge

    My mono laser printing has remained roughly the same for the last two decades.

    But I wouldn't buy an HP printer or their subscriptions.

    I used to have an A3 HP inkjet many years ago, but their way of doing things today is a deal killer for me.

  13. Agamemnon

    What is this ...

    "Printing" thing you all keep talking about???

    1. Herring`

      Re: What is this ...

      The activity formerly known as prints

  14. xyz Silver badge

    HP can't force customers to print more –

    But we're working on it.

  15. navarac Silver badge

    Printing has more than likely gone down due to HP's scandalous actions in the printer ink market more than anything. With a bit of luck, they'll go bust.

  16. Grunchy Silver badge

    “Subscription,” that’s funny

    I receive a lot of printed material each month, usually hordes of investors desperate to buy my house direct (minus realtor fee) and turn me into a “living space subscriber.”

    Meanwhile, the Brother DCP-7065DN that I bought more than a decade ago for under $100 and spits out perfect laser pages without issue is still plugging away. Sadly, the Linux drivers already work just fine and cannot be remotely sabotaged by the manufacturer so as to hasten its demise and compel me to buy something modern: something predicated on a “subscription” model, or equipped with cloud control by the OEM !

    (I have zero intention of allowing myself to be victimized by HP ever again, they may as well cease to exist as far as I am concerned.)

  17. dmacleo

    I went with brother laser MFC

    bought a Brother MFC-L8850CDW in November 2016 and never looked back after multiple canon MFC inkjets. approx 10,000 pages and 26,000 images and only issue I have ever had was a torn paper in tray wrapped around a roller, took about 2 hours to fix. use non-brother toner and works just fine.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: I went with brother laser MFC

      Little Brother HL-1100 has been in use for years, shared around the family,kept in dusty uni accommodation etc. Cheap 3rd party toner and the occasional clean and it just keeps truckin' on.

    2. David Hicklin Bronze badge

      Re: I went with brother laser MFC

      Upvote for Brother - my DCP9010CN is so old I can't remember when I purchased it but it just keeps going.

  18. MachDiamond Silver badge

    The meeting effect

    Less time in the office can mean fewer meetings which means less of a need to make print outs (and spares) for everybody that will be in the meeting whether they are needed or not. Thinking will be that if you don't have handouts, people will be unhappy so make them "just in case". Another justification is everybody trying to access a large report and ancillary documentation might be slow if they all do that from the same meeting space. Not everybody will have access to the report or access to dynamic portions if the report is generated on the fly with latest input. So, printed copy rather than an accessible directory with a PDF version.

  19. Raphael

    My home printers are an Epson EcoTank inkjet and an aging HP colour laser.

    The toner for the HP is so prohibitively expensive, I will never buy another again

  20. steve_reg

    Elephant in the room

    This article completely fails to mention some other reasons why people print less.

    GDPR and other data security concerns mean we are printing less, and instead referring to the electronic copy instead. We consider any printed document to be a liability, and printing is to be avoided wherever possible.

    We had new office printers installed back in 2018, and I never even bothered to install the drivers!

  21. Bartholomew
    Meh

    I once did a tour of a HP printer research lab (University group)

    The person bring round a group of us, was a HP lifer. He loved and was proud of everything. "And here we have these amazing light rooms that simulate sunlight and moonlight only 300 times more intense, and we can confirm that our pigments will look just as amazing in a century's time as they do the day that they are printed. "

    "And here is where our bubble jet print heads are designed, they are a totally amazing feat of engineering, the plumbing alone inside them just so precise and only as complex they need to be, the temperature inside them for an instance gets hotter than the surface of the sun to spit out the finest spray of atomized inks."

    And someone in the group asked about the markup on the toner and inks, and he had no issue in answering. "Our pigments are totally amazing and it shows with every single print, everyone who works on them from the development team to the testing group, these people are at the top of their game. So yea we charge a bit more, but a 5000 to 7000 percent markup on the raw materials is not unreasonable in this industry. Yes some people refill them any old junk. Here we love the bubble jets heads, they are complex enough that we do not have to do anything special after a few refills they will fail. They were designed to be the best that they could be but with a limited lifespan (I was thinking about Blade Runner when he said that). People always come back to us in the end."

  22. Luiz Abdala
    Joke

    HP charging 100$ per mililiter... how printing less is that bad for the consumer?

    Wait a second. Cars burning less oil is fine, but HP whining about less paper is a problem?

    What a Kodak train of thought is that? (https://www.forbes.com/sites/chunkamui/2012/01/18/how-kodak-failed/)

    Start building the devices that READ and generate documents eletronically, that don't require paper.

    E-ink are they called?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HP charging 100$ per mililiter... how printing less is that bad for the consumer?

      "What a Kodak train of thought is that?"

      The interesting parallel is perhaps that both today's HP and Kodak made so much money from consumables that they couldn't bring themselves to adapt to a world that was progressively needing less consumables. With HP, the problem is that printing itself is becoming more niche, and it isn't moving to a different type of printing, people are just doing less of it. HP's management have made the huge mistake of trying to squeeze more revenue out of a shrinking market, rather than identifying the need their product fulfilled, and producing what future products will in future meet that need.

      If HP wanted to move with the times they should log ago have bought out one of the early flat panel makers and kept investing in the product, built the sort of IP base as somebody like LG. Today, HP do "make" displays, but they just buy in the panels, the bit with real value and IP.

  23. David Austin
  24. I miss PL/1

    This is what happens when a company like HP decides to find new ways to rip off it's customers.

    You brick our printers when we try to use lower cost third party supplies and force us to by your overpriced crap. Don't be surprised HP if we print less or start looking elsewhere for our printing needs.

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